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Almost 200 Killed In Baghdad Attacks Despite Crackdown

April 19, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Nearly 200 people have been killed in a series of attacks in Baghdad in the worst single day of violence in the Iraqi capital since the U.S.-led security crackdown began in February.

Today, a suicide car bomber killed at least 10 people in Baghdad. Some 20 others were wounded when the attacker rammed his car into a fuel truck nearby. The attack occurred in a predominantly Shi'ite Muslim neighbourhood.

The death toll on April 18 included the killing of up to 140 people in a car bomb blast in a market area in the mainly Shi'ite Muslim Al-Sadriyah district.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates strongly condemned the bombings in Baghdad.

"Obviously the level of fatalities today is a horrifying thing, but I think it illustrates another point," he said. "These terrorists are killing innocent men, women, and children who are Iraqis. They're killing their countrymen, and I think it's important to highlight their efforts to try and disrupt the process of reconciliation."

Gates said that Iraq's government needed to make "faster progress" on Sunni-Shi'ite reconciliation. He said the attacks are an attempt to incite reprisals by Shi'ite militias and derail Washington's new push to secure Baghdad.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said those behind the attacks are "soldiers of Satan." Al-Maliki ordered the arrest of the army commander responsible for security in Al-Sadriyah district.

Sectarian Killings Continue

The bomb in Al-Sadriyah was left in a parked car and exploded in the afternoon in the middle of a crowd of civilians. About an hour earlier, a suicide car-bomb attack on a police checkpoint in mainly Shi'ite Al-Sadr City killed 35 people. Several other attacks in Baghdad killed at least another 13 people.

Why are innocent people being killed? This is the question asked by many ordinary Iraqis. One Iraqi man, speaking to Reuters at the site of a bombing in Al-Sadriyah, said: "We want a solution to this disaster and massacre. What did those poor people do? Who is their target? We want to know their target! We want an answer. What was [the bombers'] target? Is it the poor people, the women and the children?"

The frequency of sectarian-related killings has grown in Iraq since the February 22, 2006, bombing of a Shi'ite mosque in Samarra.

That escalating wave of killings has led to the deployment of increasing numbers of U.S. troops, despite opposition in the U.S. Congress. There are currently 146,000 US troops in Iraq, with more are on the way.

The security plan calls for 28,000 additional U.S. troops, as well as thousands of Iraqi soldiers, to be deployed in Baghdad.

Meanwhile, as killings continued in Baghdad, security in Maysan Governorate in the south of Iraq was transferred on April 18 from British to Iraqi control. It is the fourth of the country's 18 provinces to be handed over to Iraqi security forces.

Copyright (c) 2007. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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